Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Links

Gibson, Johnson should make positive contributions this season -

A couple of weeks ago, at the Bulls' mind-numbingly dull media day, I was obsessed with the idea that the Bulls need a singular go-to scorer to replace Ben Gordon, the Gucci-wearing, 3-point-dropping, late-game gunner who led the team in scoring 43 times last season.

Derrick Rose is the natural successor to Gordon's honorary title as Last Shot Taker, given his skill set and position as point guard, but most people I questioned assured me that the team will have to find its late-game identity organically and that more than one guy could assume Gordon's status. Joakim Noah even patted me on the shoulder good-naturedly as I rambled on about it.

I bring this up because -- in a game that probably no one watched live -- rookie James Johnson dropped in a game-winning, buzzer-beating jumper from the baseline to beat the Utah Jazz in London's O2 Arena the other day. The shot came off a Derrick Byars miss, and if you forgot this was a preseason game, Byars' taking the last shot is a good reminder. Perhaps Byars was inspired by wearing Gordon's old No. 7 jersey, but mostly it was because Rose sat out the game, flying to London on his 21st birthday just to make some promotional appearances for his personal brand that he's touting. Tyrus Thomas missed the game, as well.

NBA Season Previews: Derrick Rose and the Bulls could be the most surprising or disappoint team in the Central

There is nothing interesting about the top of the Central. The Cavs are going to win the division again, and it's not even going to be that close (don't get too excited Cleveland ... playoffs are another story).

The rest of the division is divided evenly. Chicago and Detroit are playoff teams who will fall somewhere in the 4-7 range, Milwaukee and Indiana have no shot.

My thoughts on the Pistons are readily available on the Web, so let's focus on the Bulls here. They might be the most intriguing team in the NBA.

Derrick Rose will join the Chris Paul/Deron Williams group of young, elite point guards this season. He might not be a MVP contender yet like his PG brethren, but he's very close. Ben Gordon had the big scoring numbers in last year's near-upset of the Celtics, but make no mistake: the Bulls pushed the champs so much because of D-Rose.

His supporting cast is pretty good. They will rotate athletic freak of nature Ty Thomas, with rebounding machine Joakim Noah and non-rebounding/non-athletic but decent offensively Brad Miller up front.

Luol Deng is healthy -- remember, the Bulls didn't want to include him in a potential Kobe Bryant trade a couple years back. He can play. They may have overvalued him a tad by not including him in proposed deals for Kobe, KG and Gasol, but don't let that undervalue him: if he's right, his mid-range game is only rivaled by Rip Hamilton's.

Monitoring Luol's minutes
When the Bulls return to practice Friday at the Berto Center, it will mark two weeks since Luol Deng conceded even he wouldn't know how his right leg would respond until he played hard on it every day.

Deng has played actively and aggressively through the Bulls' first two exhibition games, thrilling his adopted hometown fans with 18 points in 25 minutes during Tuesday's preseason victory over the Jazz in London.

Some of those fans chanted Deng's name as he sat the entire fourth quarter, hoping he'd return.

But even though the stress fracture that Deng recovered from hasn't caused anything more than minor irritation, it remains an influence on Deng's preseason.

"It was exciting to be home and I wanted to play a lot of minutes," Deng said. "But coach ( Vinny Del Negro) and I talked, and it's right to keep managing my minutes. Overall, I feel happy with where I am. But we want to stick with the plan."

That plan, according to Del Negro, calls for Deng's minutes to increase as the preseason progresses. That likely won't happen in Saturday's game against the Bucks in Green Bay, where Deng's minutes should hover in the 24-28 range.

How can you not be an "October Guy"? (Simmons mailbag)
I consider myself to be an October guy for four reasons. First, hay fever season starts in late April (and always crushes me). Second, living on the West Coast makes me ineligible for April's "Cool, it's gonna be nice outside soon!" buzz in cold-weather cities. Third, I'm a sucker for Halloween, dating back to my first costume (Freddie Lynn, a big hit) and the original John Carpenter "Halloween" movie (my first favorite scary movie and the one that prompted me to once write a "SportsCentury: Michael Myers" column). I love Halloween so much that I'll be stopping my book tour for two days -- even though it's the first week, only the most crucial part of the tour -- so I could fly cross-country to trick-or-treat with my kids. It's my favorite day of the year other than Kanye West's annual public breakdown.


Fourth, only October (and this year, thanks to a random calendar fluke, the first few days of November) features games from all four professional sports. We're headed for a surreal final week Oct. 25-31: Week 7 of the NFL and a possible Game 7 of an ALCS/NLCS (Sunday); "Monday Night Football" (Monday); opening night for the NBA (Tuesday); Game 1 of the World Series (Wednesday); Game 2 of the World Series and two TNT NBA games (Thursday); an NBA doubleheader on ESPN (Friday); college football, Game 3 of the World Series and Halloween (Saturday).

"The more you know ..." (Educational link)
In the hope of helping oncologists remove every piece of tumor tissue during surgery, researchers are developing new imaging tools that work in real time in the operating room. European researchers have now demonstrated that a chemical analysis instrument called a mass spectrometer can be coupled with an electroscalpel to create a molecular profile of tissue during surgery. The researchers have shown that the method can be used to map out different tissue types and distinguish cancerous tissue. The device will begin clinical trials next month.

"When a surgeon is performing cancer surgery, he doesn't have any direct information on where the tumor is," says Zoltán Takáts, a professor at Justus-Liebig University in Giessen, Germany. Instead, surgeons rely on preoperative imaging scans and on feedback from pathologists examining tissue biopsies under a microscope. "We want to provide a tool that's right in their hands, so that if they think a structure looks suspicious, they can just test it," says Takáts.

Mass spectrometry, a very precise method for identifying molecules by analyzing the ratio between their mass and charge, is already being used by a handful of research groups to study biological samples. Researchers have known for many years that tumor tissue and healthy tissue have different molecular profiles and that this can be used to tell them apart, or even to determine how aggressive a particular tumor is. Other research groups have used mass spectrometry to analyze biopsied tissue and have shown that it can make these differentiations. The problem with using mass spectrometry in the operating room is sample collection. Before molecules can be analyzed, they have to be ionized and sucked up into the machine. Creating ions requires bombarding a sample with a stream of charged particles, often a gas, and these methods aren't suitable for the operating room. "A high-voltage nitrogen jet is not compatible with the human body," says Takáts.

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